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Default Heading for the dead end - Roedad Khan

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Heading for the dead end

Roedad Khan

Our moment of truth has arrived. For Pakistan the hour has struck. To borrow the prophetic words of Dostoevsky, “I have a presentiment of sorts that the lots are drawn and accounts may have to be settled far sooner than one might imagine in one’s wildest dreams”.

Terror is the order of the day. Pakistan is experiencing the warning tremors of a mega political and economic earthquake. Today all the symptoms which one had ever met within history previous to great changes and revolutions exist in Pakistan. Pakistan no longer exists, by that I mean the country of our dreams, our hopes, our pride. Today a moral crisis is writ large on the entire political scene in Pakistan. The Pakistan dream has morphed into the Pakistan nightmare. The country is in deep, deep trouble. This is the darkest era in the history of Pakistan since 1971. The independence of Pakistan is a myth. Pakistan is no longer a free country. It is no longer a democratic country. American military personnel roam all over the country without let or hindrance. They violate our air space with impunity, bomb our tribal area, and kill innocent men, women and children with the full approval of our democratic government.

We were once the rainbow nation, the world’s greatest fairytale. We were a nation founded on laws and rules. What Zardari has done is essentially to throw away the Constitution, defy the Supreme Court and say that there are some people, no matter how corrupt, who are beyond the Constitution, beyond the law, beyond scrutiny, totally unaccountable. People are naturally filled with anger and angst. If you believe in democracy and the rule of law and sovereignty of the people, you would not be anything other than angry, living in the current day and age.

“Every country has its own constitution”, one Russian is alleged to have remarked in the 19th century. “Ours is absolutism moderated by occasional assassination”. The situation is not so very different in Pakistan. Two years after Bibi’s assassination, the mystery surrounding her death remains unresolved. Nobody knows who killed her. And nobody seems to care. In democracies, constitutional amendments are especially solemn moments. In Pakistan they are easier than changing the traffic regulations.

Pakistan has lapsed into languor, a spiritless lassitude. A sense of guilt, shame, danger and anxiety hangs over the country like a pall. It appears as if we are on a phantom train that is gathering momentum and we cannot get off. Today Pakistan is a silent, mournful land where few people talk of the distant future and most live from day to day. They see themselves as ordinary and unimportant, their suffering too common to be noted and prefer to bury their pain.

Today the political landscape of Pakistan is dotted with Potemkin villages. All the trappings of democracy are there, albeit in anaemic form. Parliamentarians go through the motions of attending parliamentary sessions, question hour, privilege motions, etc. endless debates which everybody knows are sterile and totally unrelated to the real problems of the people. Everybody knows where real power resides. Everybody knows where vital decisions are made.

One of the lessons of history is that when people lose faith in their rulers, when they lose faith in the sanctity of the ballot box, when elections are rigged and votes are purchased; when the gap between the rulers and the ruled widens; when there are no ways for people to express political preferences from time to time in an atmosphere free from fear, coercion, or intimidation; when known corrupt people, tax evaders and smugglers are foisted upon a poor, illiterate electorate unable to make an informed political choice, and raised to the pinnacle of power; when elections throw up not the best, not the noblest, not the fittest, not the most deserving but the worst and a legion of scoundrels, and most important, when hunger and anger come together, people, sooner or later, come out on to the streets and demonstrate Lenin’s maxim that in such situations voting with citizen’s feet is more effective than voting in elections.

What point is there preaching democracy to men, women and children dying of hunger or on the verge of committing suicide? What use is a ballot paper to skeletons? Hungry men have little to live for when their rage becomes ineffective. When one is tired of everything, it is time to give up everything. The calculation is as simple as that. A disgust for life is their sole reason for ending it.

Today we have a disjointed, dysfunctional, lopsided, hybrid, artificial, corrupt political system – a non-sovereign rubber-stamp parliament, a weak and ineffective prime minister, appointed by a powerful accidental president facing corruption charges at home and abroad. Not surprisingly, Pakistan is rudderless and sliding into darkness. It is like a nightmare in which you foresee all the horrible things which are going to happen and can’t stretch out your hand to prevent them. Such is the feeling conjured up by corrupt rulers of Pakistan as it enters a period of great uncertainty and sinks deeper and deeper into the quagmire.

We live in a miserable age of charlatans and mediocrity. In this desert of talent and virtue, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has emerged as a brief candle of courage, goodness and patriotism. Today the only ray of hope is the Supreme Court. People must rally round it and defend it; the first threats of counterrevolutionary activity have already begun to appear. Attempts are being made to subvert the people’s will and overturn the judicial revolution.

If people won’t even speak up in its defence, the present corrupt order will acquire the mantle of legitimacy and permanence. Today it is a political and moral imperative for all Pakistanis to fight for our liberties and be prepared to face all consequences.

I, like many, see Pakistan heading for the dead end. Who is there to lead us out of the hole the present rulers have dug? Do leaders make history, or do events take control and determine the course of history? “Do you think that history is changed because one individual comes along instead of another?”, Oriana Fallaci asked Willy Brandt. “I think that individuals play a definite role in history”, Willy Brandt replied, “But I also think that it’s situation that makes one talent emerge instead of another.

A talent that already existed… If the individual and the situation meet, then the mechanism is set off by which history takes one direction instead of another”. Today Pakistan is ripe for profound changes. The current situation is too severe to be treated with painkillers. It has reached a stage when surgery is required. The day is not far off when words will give way to deeds. History will not always be written with a pen.

Is this one of those moments of history when all that is needed is for someone to push open a door? The answer is yes and yes again. When a nation is in crisis, as Pakistan is today, it needs a man to match the crisis. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

The hour will find the man.

The writer is a former federal secretary.

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk. ~ The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
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